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Voiceless retroflex fricative: Wikis


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IPA – number 136
IPA – text ʂ
IPA – image {{{imagesize}}}
Entity ʂ
Kirshenbaum s.
About this sound Sound sample

The voiceless retroflex fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʂ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is s`. Like all the retroflex consonants, the IPA symbol is formed by adding a rightward pointing hook extending from the bottom of the symbol used for the equivalent alveolar consonant, in this case the voiceless alveolar fricative which has the symbol s. The IPA symbol is thus a lowercase letter s with a rightward tail protruding from the lower left of the letter. Compare s and ʂ. Although a distinction can be made between laminal, apical, and sub-apical articulations, no language makes such a contrast.



Features of the voiceless retroflex fricative:

  • Its manner of articulation is sibilant fricative, which means it is produced by directing air flow through a groove in the tongue at the place of articulation and directing it over the sharp edge of the teeth, causing high-frequency turbulence.
  • Its place of articulation is retroflex, which prototypically means it is articulated with the tip of the tongue curled up, but more generally means that it is postalveolar without being palatalized. That is, besides the prototypical sub-apical (curled) articulation, the tongue contact can be apical (pointed) or laminal (flat).
  • Its phonation type is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by allowing the airstream to flow over the middle of the tongue, rather than the sides.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic egressive, which means it is articulated by pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal tract, rather than from the glottis or the mouth.


In the following transcriptions, diacritics may be used to distinguish between apical [ʂ̺] and laminal [ʂ̻].

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz амш [amʂ] 'day' See Abkhaz phonology
Chinese Mandarin /shí [ʂ̺ɻ̩˧˥] 'stone' See Standard Mandarin
Faroese rs [fʊʂ] 'eighty'
Malayalam കഷ്ടി [käʂʈi] 'scarce'
Norwegian forsamling [fɔʂɑmːlɪŋ] 'meeting/gathering' See Norwegian phonology
Pashto southern dialect ښودل [ʂ̺odəl] 'to show'
Polish[1] szum Pl-szum.ogg [ˈʂ̻um] 'rustle' See Polish phonology
Russian[1] шут [ʂut̪] 'fool' See Russian phonology
Swedish fors [fɔʂ] 'rapids' See Swedish phonology
Telugu అభిలాషి [ʌbʱilaːʂi] 'person who wishes'
Toda[2] pɔʂ 'name of a clan'
Ubykh [ʂ̺a] 'head' See Ubykh phonology
Vietnamese Saigon dialect s [ʂ̺o˧˥] 'number' See Vietnamese phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[3] example needed Allophone of /ʃ/ before [a] and [u]

See also



  • Hamann, Silke (2004), "Retroflex fricatives in Slavic languages", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 53–67  
  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005). Vowels and Consonants (Second ed.). Blackwell.  
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquipan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38 (1): 107–114  


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